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December 2023

God Of Rock

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Modus Studios
Release Date: April 18, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'God of Rock'

by Cody Medellin on May 12, 2023 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

God Of Rock is the next step forward for fighting games: rhythm-based attacks from the most powerful musicians on the planet.

While many people think of rhythm games as solo experiences, they're actually communal given the sharable nature of music. A number of the classic rhythm games also happen to be competitive in nature, whether it's something big like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero or something esoteric like Bust a Groove. God of Rock is the latest rhythm game to tap into the idea of being a competitive game, and it does so with an interesting but logical hook.

For the most part, this plays out like any rhythm game. Notes come down a line, and players use a button to hit it as it goes over the designated hit area. There are four lines that correspond to the face buttons on the controller, but you can also use the directions on the d-pad to hit those notes. Most notes are of the single tap variety, but there are times when notes need to be held or two notes come down at the same time.

The hook this time around is this is a fighting game, where players can select characters and both fighters have a health meter. Hitting the notes with timing that's the same as your opponent will do nothing, but hitting notes with better timing causes some damage to your opponent, and vice versa. As with any fighting game, characters have their own special moves that are executed with a combination of analog stick directions and pulling on the R2 trigger. Charge moves can be done by holding down the L1 button, and the special moves and ultra move can be executed at any time regardless of rhythm. Some moves do direct damage to the player, while others may throw phantom notes on the screen or return some of your health.

There are additional elements that stand out when compared to other rhythm games. For starters, the game features 40 original songs instead of licensed tracks, a real rarity in a genre where licenses are coveted. Despite the knock that many tracks sound too similar to one another, all 40 tracks are instrumental, so they can loop without noticeable breaks, since fights only end when one player loses all of their health. To reach that point, songs that start at one difficulty level increase in note complexity until someone loses. Unlike other rhythm games, you can miss a few notes and still be safe — provided that your opponent also misses them.

As good as this sounds thus far, God of Rock commits several mistakes that will throw off fans of both genres. Fighting game fans will dislike that they're unable to see all of their meters at once. Since players need to focus on the note area, it makes sense to have the super and ultra move meters nearby, but it makes no sense to have the HP meter placed in the traditional top spot; this means potentially missing some beats to see how close you are to defeat or victory. The same can be said for the reversal meter, which is in the bottom middle of the screen near both note highways, but it can easily be ignored since it goes beyond the note area. The focus on the note area also means that they'll miss out on the fighting. It's a common problem for almost all rhythm games, as only the spectators can see the outlandish characters and moves, but it is still worth mentioning since the fighting game genre is all about the visual spectacle to go along with technical prowess.

For rhythm game fans, there are a few gripes. The first is the use of horizontal note highways. It works fine in games like Taiko Drum Master or Muse Dash but mostly because you're only ever expected to use two buttons. Four buttons is just too much to work with, and it doesn't help that the buttons corresponding to each lane aren't that intuitive. Triangle for the top and X for the bottom seem fine, but that leaves Square and Circle in the middle and positioned in a way where the note combinations require some finger dexterity that doesn't feel natural. Button icons are also an issue because the icons are so small to read unless you're sitting close to the screen.

The lanes also adopt colors that match with the button colors of a Xbox controller instead of the PlayStation, so if you're unfamiliar with Microsoft's controller, you'll be thrown off by the X lane being represented by green when that color is meant for Triangle. Another poor choice is having those horizontal lanes mirror one another depending on which side you're fighting on. Having to adjust to this layout and knowing where the notes are coming from makes the game needlessly complicated.

God of Rock has a few modes that do their job, and that's about it. Arcade mode acts like a traditional story, where you choose a character and have them fight everyone on the roster to defeat the God of Rock and get their wish fulfilled. It's fairly long compared to other fighting games, but it feels longer because the songs and backgrounds often get repeated more than once in this mode in the same storyline. Unless you play on the higher difficulty levels, this one should give you no trouble because you can hit a few notes, spam the special moves often, and win the match without too much trouble. Stories in fighting games aren't often anything to write home about. The intro provides a good idea about every character's motivations, but their endings are disappointing since they consist of one image with no dialogue before going to the credits with two character models fighting on a loop. Equally as disappointing are the special pre-fight banter sequences, which try to match what you'd see in something like Injustice or Mortal Kombat 11 but come off as dull.

Versus mode can be played online or offline, and it's also basic. Matches consist of one round with the same rules as the Arcade mode. The game has cross-play support, so the opponent pool is extended not just to PS4 players but those on the PC, Switch, and Xbox consoles. Performance is good with no hitches and no loading screens to slow you down when jumping into new matches or rematches. Finally, there's the creation system. You can select any backdrop and song you want before creating a note highway. You can't share these online, but you can use them in both local and online fights.

There's a good idea behind God of Rock. The concept of a rhythm game with the trappings of a fighting game has worked in the past, so we know this combination can work. The execution is flawed enough for both genres that the idea can't shine through. Some more polish and perhaps a rethinking of readability would help this become more desirable, but it's currently difficult to recommend.

Score: 5.0/10

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